By Duncan Abigaba
This week, Jack Ma, the founder and executive chairman of Chinese e-commerce group Alibaba visited Kenya together with other 38 Chinese billionaire businessmen and businesswomen.
Mr. Ma is currently Asia’s richest man with a fortune of nearly $35.6 billion according to Forbes Magazine (2017), nearly half of Kenya’s economic output or the sum of output of the Ugandan and Rwandan economies.
The 38 men and women, from the Beijing Chamber of Commerce, were looking to cut multi-billion shilling deals with the government and local businessmen.
Ma also spoke to the students and youth at the University of Nairobi about entrepreneurship. Ma and team are looking at supporting small businesses and encouraging the culture of enterprises in Kenya.
Ultimately, the Kenyan youth will directly or indirectly get jobs or have access to markets through this visit. Ma’s visit is informed by several factors including the political and economic stability in Kenya, stable economic growth averaging 5.5% for the last ten years given the security threats posed by Al-Shabaab militants in the North East.
As Kenya hosts Ma, Uganda’s investment minister continues to embarrass the country by telling our potential investors that Uganda has put up a hotline manned by soldiers where investors can report anybody asking for bribes.
This is reason enough for somebody to take their money elsewhere than Uganda. She treats this as one of her greatest achievements. Nevertheless, we would be mistaken to put our expectations higher in a person overseeing $4oom Uganda airlines revival, $4b oil refinery and $6b oil pipeline yet her only known past management record is news anchoring on a local FM station.
In May, President Kenyatta was the only African leader invited at the G7 summit in Taormina, Italy where he spoke about the timelines and challenges brought about by innovation as a factor of economic growth and development on the African continent.
G7 countries make 60% of the World GDP and include; USA, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom, Canada and France.
The President was also among the 28 world leaders invited to the infrastructure summit in Beijing, China in May.
The summit was premised on the theme “strengthening international co-operation and co-building the belt and road for win-win development”.
The only other African leader attending the summit was the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Disalegn.
Both countries have heavily invested in infrastructure with technical and financial support from China. Ethiopia has built a 6,000 MW renaissance dam on Blue Nile at $6.4b producing 15,000 GWh per year and completed in a six years record time while Kenya has completed its first phase of 472 Km Standard Gauge Railway at $3.2b in a record three years, 90% financed by the Exim Bank of China.
Meanwhile Uganda has earmarked a similar amount of money for constructing a 273 Km Malaba-Kampala same Standard Gauge Railway, and for the last three years, the only work done has been compensation of only 40% of the people affected by the proposed railway line.
Although nothing can justify why 273Km of Uganda costs the same as 472 Km of Kenya.
In Uganda, for the last 5 years, the government has failed to complete a mere 400MW Karuma dam on the Nile River. The project has been marred by scandal after scandal including senior government officials but the President hasn’t been ashamed enough to drop these officials from his cabinet or government but has shuffled them promoting some to become his advisors.
The whopping $1.4b earmarked for Karuma and of course financed by the Chinese government as a loan through EXIM Bank of China at an obnoxious 4% interest rate is reprehensible.
With $6.4b, Ethiopia has done a 6,000MW dam which translates into 15 Karuma dams (400MW each).
But as per the exceptionally corrupt standards of procedure, if Uganda was given the $6.4b, they would only do 4 and a half Karuma dams each at a cost of $1.4b.
What explains this aberrant variance? Nothing except the unprecedented appetite of the Ugandan public officials who have been born and bred under corruption and now are living the corruption dream. They would “eat” a whopping 10.5 of the 15 dams.
In the last four and a half years, the Jubilee government in Kenya has flagged off several projects and programmes including completion and commissioning of the Standard Gauge Railway that is now providing employment to over 30,000 young people.
Before, it was an eight hour journey from Nairobi to Mombasa but it now takes only three hours and costs only Kshs 900 (30,000 Ugshs).
Jomo Kenyatta International Airport has been transformed into a “real” international airport with several investments at the airport including coffee shops, duty-free shops, all of which provide employment to the young people.
Each airline has its own booking and boarding area, and the airlines are mapped according to one’s destination; local, regional or international flights.
In the energy sector alone, in the last four and a half years, Kenya has added 700MW to its national grid bring the generation capacity to 2,299MW from 1,599 in 2013.
This is almost four times the generation capacity of Uganda despite the Nile which provides a natural reserve for power generation.
In Uganda, in 2011, the country had capacity of 800MW; the 2011-2016 manifesto projected the capacity to grow to 3,080MW by 2016. By 2016, Uganda was producing 851MW only.
The sector was marred by grand corruption scandals, prompting the President to sanction several investigations whose reports or recommendations are yet to be implemented or to be heard about.
Kenya has managed to connect the whole 47 counties to the national backbone infrastructure. In 2013, only 27 counties were connected and in the last four years, 6,000Km have been added up from 4,300Km in 2013.
The digital learning programme has distributed 702,403 learning devices (tablets) to 14,336 primary schools.
Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and Moi University will manufacture 1,500,000 of these tablets annually.
Kenya started the National Youth Service (NYS) programme in 2013.
The National Youth Service Officers are responsible for the security of the most of the sensitive installations in Nairobi including the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, the Kenyatta International Convention Centre, the ministries etc.
Since 2013, the number of youth service officers has increased from 4,000 to 37,000.
In Uganda, a similar paramilitary group called the crime preventers, some of whom are graduates has disillusioned and brainwashed the youth.
They have been relegated to man parking at burials and weddings. The Youth Empowerment Programme in Kenya has so far benefitted 93,000 youth both in training and start-ups.
The Access to Government Procurement Opportunities (AGPO), a presidential directive, gives 30% of all government tenders to youth and women owned companies.
The Kenyan government has started Huduma centres where government services are accessed under one roof, now operational in 41 counties.
These centres offer 66 different public services. These centres serve 45,000 Kenyans daily and have served 12m Kenyans since their inception.
The government eCitizen portal offers 197 different public services inter alia; visa applications, passport applications, driving license, company and business registration etc. and since its inception, 3m people have used the service.
Under education, since 2013, the Kenyan government has built 152 new technical training institutions and enhanced training of 145,405 teachers.
The Kenyan government has provided group medical and life insurance cover for every soldier, police and prisons officer.
On August 8, 2017, Kenyans will go to the polls to elect the country’s Chief Executive for the next five years.
In the Great Lakes region, Kenya and Tanzania have set a practice that leaders must change after every five or ten years and they change only democratically through elections.
All their neighbors including Uganda, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Sudan etc. are ruled mostly by ex-guerilla fighters who came to power through civil wars or coups, have manipulated their constitutions, deleted term limits and some have not organized any kind of elections in a long time like the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In Uganda, the ruling party is scheming to amend article 102 (b) of the constitution which states “a person is not qualified for election as president unless that person is not less than thirty-five years and not more than seventy-five years of age”, to grant Museveni a right to rule for life.
This has put the President on a coalition course with youth, mostly his supporters who have only seen one president.
The situation worsened in the last few days when the president likened the youth to biological objects that are big in number but lack ideology to act.
This was in his article on by-elections dated July 10, 2017.
The article followed a humiliating defeat of his party, where a youthful musician-cum politician, Bobi Wine defeated NRM with over 77%.
For the first time under Museveni’s leadership, the youth have been rubbed the wrong way by the schemes of NRM to amend the constitution to pave way for Museveni’s life rule.
The youth from the corporate world, civil service, civil society and the private sector are caucusing under various platforms to prove that they are not only biological substances but can stumble Museveni’s plans.
Of course, levels of suspicion are high owing to the President Museveni grocery politics.
Grocery politics (monetization of politics) was introduced in the region by former Presidents Daniel Arap Moi of Kenya and Sese Seko Mobutu of former Zaire, in whose footsteps Museveni has followed to the latter.
The two used grocery (money and job offers) to buy off every living opposition thing.
All said and done, Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto have done a lot of work in a very short period despite their youthful age.
They assumed power at 53 and 47 years of age respectively.
They have been a testimony that young people can also have correct ideology, and I think Museveni should be able to borrow a leaf from his youthful neighbours.
While in the last 31 years, Museveni has added 700mw to his power grid, the young leaders of Kenya have just achieved that in only four and a half years.
To our Kenyan friends, Jubilee tano tena!
The writer is a Ugandan youth with interest in regional politics.